If there’s one thing banks love, it’s charging you extra for stupid things and hoping you won’t notice. Don’t let greedy banks upcharge you into oblivion. Here are some extremely common fees that are easy to avoid.
Fees are one of the worst offenders of wasted money. It may not seem like a lot, but they can add up quickly, they’re easily avoidable, and they don’t provide anything of benefit to you—it’s money down the drain.
Every single person with a bank account can get rid of these fees with just a little effort, and it’s one of the first steps you should take to get your finances in order.
Fees on Your Bank Account
We all need checking accounts, and in most cases they’re free…unless you take out too much money, don’t have enough money, or accidentally pay someone money that isn’t there. Basically, if you aren’t on top of your bank account, the banks will gouge you.
Thankfully, most of these are avoidable with a little research—and if you do get charged, you can often waive them with a simple phone call.
Overdraft Fees and Credit Card Late Payment Fees: Overdraft fees are probably the most notorious bank fees. In the first three months of this year, the three largest banks made $1.1 billion on overdraft fees.
Sometimes, you just don’t realize how much money is in your account and you write a check that sends you into the negative.
So naturally, the banks charge you money for not having enough money—often as much as $35 a pop.
The simple solution? Stop overdrafting and learn to manage your money better. If you’re still struggling, set up a low balance alert on your account so you know when your account is low.
Of course, mistakes still happen, and once in a while, you might overdraft. Provided you’re not repeatedly overdrafting, a simple phone call to your bank can fix this problem.
The gist is simple: make the call and ask them to waive the overdraft fee.
If they balk at your request, point out how long you’ve been a loyal customer. In most cases, they’ll waive the fee right there. I Will Teach You To Be Rich author Ramit Sethi has a great script you can follow to do just this.
You can also opt out of overdraft protection, which means you’ll bounce checks, but the fees are usually much lower. Talk to your bank to learn how.
The same goes for credit card late payment fees. If you pick up the phone and call your bank and ask them to waive the fee, they’ll usually do it, provided you’re not doing it every month.
The easiest way to avoid these fees is to meet the requirements for a free checking account.
Each bank differs, but let’s take Bank of America as an example. In order to skip out on the monthly fee, you need to either: have at least one direct deposit of $250 or more a month, maintain an average minimum balance of at least $1,500 over the month, or be a rewards member.
Maintaining a balance of $1,500 isn’t easy for everyone, but most of us probably have a direct deposit from work of at least $250. If you don’t, or your employer doesn’t support direct deposit, you can send yourself money using an online service like Square Cash, Venmo, or Paypal.
Doing this shows up in your account as an ACH transfer, which counts as direct deposit and should waive the fee. If you’d prefer to skip this altogether, though, try an online bank or credit union instead—most of them don’t have these fees.
Minimum Balance and Maintenance Fees: A lot of banks offer you a checking account for free, but require you to keep a certain amount of money in it—called a “minimum balance”. If you don’t, you’re charged around $12 a month to keep the account (called a “maintenance fee”).
Returned Check Fees: It’s common knowledge that if you bounce a check, you’ll get a fee (which you can often get refunded by following the same steps as if you overdraft).
What’s more obnoxious is when you get charged a fee because a check you deposited bounces when the sender doesn’t have the cash to back it up.
Typically, banks charge around $7 per check and are filed under “processing fees.”
Again, you can usually get these fees waived with a phone call. Over on I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Sethi asked the bank to remove the fees with a simple statement: “I’d like to have this removed.” That was it, they removed the $7 fee.
Fees for Customer Service
It’s actually pretty easy these days to find an ATM That doesn’t carry fees. If you don’t already have it installed, download your bank’s smartphone app. Most have an ATM locator option so you can easily find the closest free ATM, which is awesome.
Alternatively—and this is an even better option—there are plenty of banks that will refund all your ATM fees, so it’s like you never paid them. Switch to one of those and you’ll never worry about ATM fees again.
Sometimes, it feels like banks are trying as hard as they can to not be convenient. Want to take money out of your account from another bank’s ATM? Pay a fee.
Want a paper statement in the mail? Pay a fee. Accidentally get it sent to the wrong address? Pay a bigger fee. Thankfully, these charges are incredibly easy to avoid—you just have to know they exist in the first place.
ATM Fees: ATM fees are pretty well known, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying. If you use an ATM not owned by your bank, you’re charged a fee by both your bank and the ATM company. If you use ATMs a lot, this adds up pretty quickly.
Paper Statement Fees: It might seem ridiculous, but a number of banks charge you $1 or $2 for paper statements.
Big ones include TD Bank, U.S. Bank, and a number of regional banks. Sadly, there’s really no way around it, other than signing up for paperless statements (which you’ll get in your email) or changing banks.
Still, if you don’t need those paper statements, signing up for paperless statements only takes a couple of minutes on your bank’s website
Every bank differs, but you’ll usually find a link on your main account page.
Returned Mail Fee: Moving is hard enough as it is, but if you forget to change your address with your bank, things get costly too.
If you get paper statements a number of banks, including U.S. Bank and many regional banks don’t allow statements to be forwarded, and when they’re returned, you’ll get a surprise undeliverable fee of anywhere between $5 and $15.
The fix is simple: remember to change your address with your bank.
Other Account Fees
You probably knew about a few of the above—you may have even gotten dinged by them before. But there are all kinds of other fees you might not know about. You can get most waived or at least lowered if you know what to do, but sometimes it’s just about getting ahead of them and not be surprised by the fees.
Foreign Transaction Fees: When you travel abroad, your bank will charge you two fees: one conversion fee for taking money out of an ATM, and another fee for every time you swipe your card. We talked about this in our guide to travel-related fees, but it bears repeating here because they can add up really fast if you’re on vacation.
Avoiding these fees is all about preparation. If you travel a lot, pick a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees (there are quite a few). Banks range from charging you 1% to 3% per transaction on your credit card or debit card, so call them before you go and use the card with the lowest fee.
As for those ATM fees, most large banks have partner banks where you can withdraw cash for free. Just make sure you research ahead of time so you know where to go.
Credit Card Interest Rates: We all know that credit cards come with interest rates. That’s just part of the deal, right? Ideally, you shouldn’t carry a balance at all on your credit card, but if you do have some debt, you can negotiate your interest rate.
The Washington Post points out that it often just takes a phone call to get your interest rate lowered.
The older you are, the more likely that phone call will work. Only 33% of people aged 18-29 had luck lowering their interest rate, but 59% of people aged 30-49 did, and 79% of people aged 50-64 were able to lower their rate. Regardless, this script should help you along the way.
Stop Payment Fees: Sometimes, you need to cancel a check. Maybe you wrote the incorrect amount, or a check got lost in the mail. You can call your bank and cancel that check, but it’ll cost you to do so. Every bank varies a little on how much they’ll charge you, but it’s typically between $30 and $35.
Like a lot of the fees on this list, your magic bullet is a phone call. If you’ve been a longstanding customer and don’t request to stop payment checks very often, you can call up your bank and ask them to waive the fee.
Depending on your bank, you should be able to get it removed.
Wire Transfer Fees: Wiring money to and from your bank account costs…well, more money. Most banks charge around $15 for incoming wire transfers and $25-$30 for outgoing transfers. That adds up pretty quick if you’re moving money around a lot.
Thankfully, it’s 2015 and wire transfers aren’t really necessary anymore. In most cases, you can send money to other people or business with a service for no additional fees. It should be just as quick as a wire transfer.
Banks love fees and even when you know about them, it’s hard to track them sometimes. Thankfully, a tool like Mint will give you a breakdown of your fees for the month, so it’s easy to monitor. When a new one pops up, you’ll know what to do to get it removed and make sure it doesn’t happen again.